Business Visas for Japan by SHIMAX Legal


Working as an English (or foreign language) Instructor


Teaching English (or other foreign language) has been a common way for many foreigners to relocate to and work in Japan. If a person intends to work full-time as a language instructor, they will of course need to obtain the appropriate status of residence (“visa”) to live in Japan. There is no one particular class of visa that would allow a person to work as a language instructor, and in fact depending on circumstances, there are several possible visa classes under which a person could work as a language instructor.

When someone has been employed by a language school, in most cases, they will apply for the Engineer/Humanities/International Services visa. As the name suggests, this class of visa consists of three sub-categories: Engineer (generally for technical work), Humanities (work related to the arts and humanities) and International Services (work requiring knowledge the foreigner acquired through their life in a foreign country). English and foreign language instruction falls under the International Services category with the caveat that the applicant will be teaching their native language.

Applying for a visa as a language instructor under the International Services category, requires the completion of a university bachelor degree or a minimum of three years of actual experience; however if the applicant has completed a bachelor degree, then actual experience is not required. Also important, is as mentioned above, when a person will work as a language instructor under the International Services category, they should be teaching their native language (for example someone raised and educated in the United Kingdom coming to Japan to teach English).

But what about the case where a prospective English instructor was not raised and educated in country with English as their official language and mother tongue? There are of course excellent English speakers, for example in Germany, or other countries. Such applicants can teach English in Japan, but rather than being considered under the International Services category, they would be treated under the Humanities category. For such a person, not only do they need to have graduated with a university degree, but they will need to demonstrate educational and/or work experience relevant to the language instruction they expect to do in Japan. In the case of our German example, perhaps someone who has majored in English Studies at university etc.

Finally, as is the case with all “work visas”, the employer is also evaluated in addition to the applicant. This includes factors such as the long-term viability and stability of the employer and whether the applicant will be paid a salary that would be enough to live in Japan.